Arpaio changes tune on Horne in attorney general's race

By Nick R. Martin | September 9th, 2010 | 1:06 pm | 1 Comment »

Sheriff Joe Arpaio attacks Tom Horne
Sheriff Joe Arpaio spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking attorney general candidate Tom Horne with the ad above. Image from Re-Elect Joe Arpaio 2012

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has apparently changed his mind about a candidate he recently spent big bucks trying to defeat.

Last month, the Maricopa County sheriff was dishing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to attack Tom Horne, a Republican running in the Arizona attorney general’s race.

Arpaio, a fellow Republican who wanted instead to see his ally Andrew Thomas win the GOP nomination, paid an estimated $300,000 for television ads linking Horne to Democratic President Barack Obama, accusing him of unethical behavior and saying he favors amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Horne, however, ended up winning the nomination anyway. He beat Thomas by 899 votes.

Now, the sheriff has changed his tune about the Republican who could become the top law enforcement officer in Arizona if he beats Democrat Felecia Rotellini in November.

Watch the ad while you can
Now that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is endorsing Tom Horne in the attorney general’s race, the sheriff’s campaign manager tells Heat City: “We probably should take that down.” Update (9/14/10): The ad has been removed.

Arpaio announced Tuesday he is endorsing Horne for attorney general. He now says he believes Horne, the current superintendent of Arizona’s public schools, is “the best candidate for this important job.”

He also said he believes Horne opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, a full reversal of what he said in his attack ads.

The ads, which began airing in late July, were explicit about what Arpaio believed was Horne’s position on giving citizenship to illegal immigrants.

“Tom Horne favors amnesty for illegal immigrants, which would cost taxpayers billions,” the narrator said with a grainy black and white photo of the candidate plastered on the screen. The ad also said Horne had “falsely and unethically accused the sheriff of political retaliation.”

But when Horne released word of the endorsement on Tuesday, Arpaio’s was saying almost exactly the opposite thing.

“Tom Horne will enforce our laws against illegal immigration, will oppose amnesty and support SB 1070,” Arpaio’s written statement said. ” I strongly encourage voters throughout the state to join me in voting for Tom Horne for attorney general.”

Horne did not return a call seeking comment on the discrepancy. But he has denied in the past that he supports granting citizenship to illegal immigrants as part of any immigration reform plan.

In fact, Horne felt so strongly that his position was being skewed that he sued Arpaio two weeks before the Aug. 24 primary, saying the sheriff was breaking the law by airing the ads.

Horne said he believed the spots amounted to a back-door campaign contribution for his opponent. He estimated the sheriff spent $317,000 on them while contributions were limited to $140. “That is patently illegal,” Horne said in documents he filed Aug. 10.

The damage would be severe, Horne pleaded to the judge. He could lose the election because of it.

But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Buttrick declined to pull the ads from the air, saying they plainly also asked people to vote for Arpaio in his re-election campaign in 2012. Therefore, the judge said, the sheriff was free to attack Horne or anyone else. He threw out the lawsuit two days after it was filed.

Arpaio’s campaign manager, Chad Willems, told Heat City on Wednesday that Arpaio and Horne met sometime last week after a winner was declared in the GOP race. They sat down, talked and agreed to end their feud.

“Oftentimes in campaigns, there are misunderstandings,” Willems said. “And they got that cleared up.”

Willems pointed to a 2007 newspaper article in which Horne was quoted as saying he “would have no objection” to a plan giving citizenship to illegal immigrant students who graduate from high school and pass an extra test.

“There was some confusion in the air about the comments that Tom had made two, three years ago,” Willems said. But Horne and Arpaio now “see eye to eye on the issue.”

And as for the idea that Horne had accused the sheriff of political retaliation, Willems said: “They’ve aired that out, too.”

The primary battle between Horne and Arpaio’s ally Andrew Thomas was one of the nastiest in recent Arizona history. And the sheriff spent at least $400,000 in advertising during the primary, Willems said, though he wasn’t sure how much of that went to the ads involving Horne.

But that’s all water under the bridge now, Willems said. “He won. It couldn’t have hurt him that bad.”